This was my neighborhood gang growing up. I love this picture and keep it on a sunny windowsill in my kitchen.
That’s me standing by the pool, doubled up with laughter. Why? Because Mary had just swallowed some water and bobbed up gasping for air. For some reason that sent me into fits. The little girl dangling her legs in the pool is Alisha, who idolized Mary and wanted to do whatever she did but was terrified of getting her face wet. That’s Carla in the red suit getting ready to cannonball. That girl could make some splash and also talk in a crazy falsetto voice that made everyone laugh. That’s Ralph with his hands over his privates. Ralph had a thing for his privates which we never talked about. The other kid is Darren, Alisha’s brother. He was the smartest of us all and could make great farting sounds blowing into his hands.
The pool was in Mary’s backyard and if we weren’t there, we were walking downtown or riding our bikes or just goofing around. Those were more innocent times when parents didn’t worry about unsupervised children. I remember it as a blur of running, laughing and playing.
We stay in touch even now with Facebook and occasional emails. I could never have guessed what they’d be doing as adults. Mary is a strong advocate for medicinal marijuana and is opening a dispensary. Alisha is an art teacher in high school and has a studio in a barn behind her house. Alisha’s brother, Darren, changed his name to Jamal and he’s written several novels to minor acclaim. Cannonball Carla is a police officer in a small midwestern town. Ralph has maintained his interest in genitalia and is now a successful urologist.
The reason I keep this picture on the windowsill, next to small pots of assorted flowers, is because we were all seeds back then–packed with energy and potential but not yet in bloom. I run a Pre-K school out of my house–filled with squirming, crying, but for the most part, happy little seeds.
Story by Will Conway
You don’t forget the first time you get your period. For me, it was immortalized in this photograph, taken by my father.
I was swimming with my neighbor and best friend Roxy, her brother Teddy, his friend Markus, and Markus’s sister Pearl. Roxy wasn’t the best of best friends. She had a big mouth and an even bigger attitude. She said it was a family trait.
Rox and I were playing mermaids with Pearl when I felt a rush of heat pushed between my legs. I looked down and a puff of red dispersed into the water. My face flushed.
“What’s wrong?” Roxy said loudly, surfacing from the deep.
“Nothing,” I whispered, trying to figure out how to get out of the water without anyone seeing.
“What happened?” said Markus and Teddy from where they were shoving each other between dives.
“What is it, girls?” said my mother from where she and my father and Roxy’s parents sat drinking. She was in her fire-engine red one piece that still seemed skimpy despite the full coverage due to the thin, nearly see-through material of the suit. I hated that suit. She was so embarrassing to me, with her fair skin that never tanned and the perpetual pink smear highlighting her cheeks.
“NOTH-ING,” I said. “JEEZ.” I took a deep breath and pushed myself up out of the water to sit on the edge of the pool. Hoping no one would notice, I stood up.
A pulse of liquid ebbed from my vagina. I felt it mingle with the chlorinated pool water dripping down my legs and I looked down in horror.
“Oh my GAWD!” screeched Roxy. “Is that your PERIOD?”
“Shut UP, Roxy!” I gasped, and threw my face down in my hands. Teddy and Markus laughed and Teddy’s mom shushed them.
My mom called out, “Don’t worry, honey, I’ll be right back!”
In this photo, I see my mother rushing up back to the pool to help me. I didn’t want her help. She was everything I didn’t want to be.
Story by Alison Williams
Betty’s mother took this photo. It was before she died in that tragic car accident; before her father got a job at the Portland General Electric Company; before people started conjecturing about her mother’s affair with one of her students, a 17-year old boy who attended her literature class, forcing them to move to another city.
Her mother took that picture of us at the end of the summer that our families spent together in Fort Bragg. We used to hang out in their backyard pool: me, my big sister Lucy, Betty, her younger brother Matthew, and Jillian and Ross, our neighbours.
That year Betty was so proud of graduating junior school; she was one year older than me and I always looked up to her. That summer she taught me that there was something more about being a girl; she helped me understand the changes that our bodies were going through. I wasn’t so sure about that though. I still liked playing with the boys more than dressing up like a grown-up and talking about them all the time. I thought it was quite boring actually, but, hey, if it’s what being a woman means…
That evening Matthew, Betty’s brother, couldn’t stop staring at Jillian; he was fascinated by her white smile and dark, frizzy hair. I remember I was very jealous at that time. I loved to play with them in the pool, but sometimes I started to feel a little bit awkward around them. Ross was too young to notice her sister’s connection to Matthew or to arouse my interest in a similar way.
Anyway, that was one of the reasons I was so interested in Betty’s attitude about being a woman, to rush into a new world made of desires, looks and rules and… It made me feel like I was up to something more important than Matthew’s friendship, like I didn’t need it anymore.
Betty and I were best friends at that time. We were sharing absolutely everything that summer. Like when she told me about her crush on J., the boy working at the diner near the beach. Or when I confessed to her that I was terrified of having my first period while swimming in the pool.
So, when she started crying that evening I was startled; I couldn’t understand why she was suddenly so sad. Then, she told me that her family was moving to Portland. She couldn’t wait to go to the new school in Sacramento, but her family had to move to Oregon instead, due to her mother’s transfer to a local public school.
I was so shocked by that news that I almost forgot that we were going out with J and his friend Paul that night… I couldn’t think about anything else, like the world just disappeared. And I didn’t even notice the warm flow between my legs, as a sharp pain broke through my lower guts…
Story by Marzia Matarese